Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Gallipoli .... lest we forget

At dawn on 25 April 1915, Australian troops began landing at North Beach and around the area known today as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsular in Turkey. They were closely followed by the Kiwi troops.

The allied troops were trying to get control of the Dardanelles. The aim that day was to capture the Sari Baird range and then press inland to Mal Tepe to cut off Turkish reinforcements to Cape Helles. The strategy was to knock Turkey out of the war and open a path through to Russia.


From the beach, groups of men ran up steep, scrub covered slopes toward the high ground ... these men had been squatting in row boats for many hours, were in full army gear and were soaking wet.

At first the few Turkish defenders were pushed back. Some groups of Aussie and Kiwi troops fought their way to where they could see the Dardanelles on the other side of the peninsular.

As the day progressed, Turkish resistance strengthened and by nightfall none of the objectives of the allied troops had been reached. The commanders on the spot recommended withdrawal but they were ordered to dig in and hold. A very sad decision.

There were many ferocious and bloody battles on the Gallipoli Peninsular but for Aussies, none more so than the battle of Lone Pine.

On 6 August at Lone Pine, Australian troops commenced an attack to support the British landing further north along the coast at Suvla Bay.

Aussie troops attacked and occupied Turkish front line positions against determined Turkish counter-attacks. Most of the fighting took place at close quarters in the Turkish trenches. After four days of intense hand to hand fighting the Aussie troops gained control. This close range assault resulted in 2,273 Aussie and 4,000 Turkish casualties in the area the size of a soccer field.

The ANZAC memorial to soldiers who have no marked graves has been erected at Lone Pine.


"There is hell waiting here"
CA McAnulty,
Australian soldier killed in the battle of Lone Pine
6 - 12 August 1915

It is hard to fathom, nearly 100 years later, how such atrocities could occur in what today is a very moving but very serene place. This is the view from Lone Pine.

One of my favourite stories of Gallipoli has always been about Simpson and his donkey Duffy. Simpson was a stretcher bearer. He and Duffy would go onto the battle fields every day and bring back the dead and wounded troops. It was a sad day for the troops the day Duffy returned alone.

It was a very sad moment for me, standing in front of this grave stone. Such a brave man and only 22 years old.

The Gallipoli campaign lasted 9 months, until January 1916. There were more than half a million casualties, 130,000 deaths of which 8,700 were Aussies and 2,700 were Kiwis.

This campaign has always been called a gentleman's war ... a Turk soldier carrying an allied troop.

I think some of the peace that is now felt when walking around the bloody battlefields of Gallipoli is due to the respect that the Turk and ANZAC troops have for each other... at various times during the campaign and forever after.

This memorial was constructed by the Turkish government in memory of ANZAC soldiers who lie side by side with Turkish soldiers of the Gallipoli Peninsular.


In case you can't read it ...

'Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives,
you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours ....
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now living in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.'

After a very emotional day, it was these words that really brought me undone.

Lest we forget.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

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